Blast from the Past: Manager Rick Garrison won back to back State titles   

Published 3:03 pm Thursday, July 21, 2022

BY C.Y. Peters

It was the best of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope.  Back to Back Rick Garrison led 13 and 14-year-old teams to a state title and a trip to the Southeast Regional in Jr. Babe Ruth baseball. The 13-year-olds played in Union City and the 14’s played at Marshall County.

He coached Bowers Barbershop to the 12-year-old American League title.  In District play, the American League and the National League had several good players, but Elizabethton placed two teams in the tournaments. The following year the teams would come together to form the Elizabethton Jr. Babe Ruth teams. The players were divided up during the season but when it became All-Star time, the best of the best was put together to form one team. As the season ended, Garrison’s team finished at the top so he got his choice of which of the three all-star teams to select. He turned down the 15 and 14-year-olds to take the much younger 13-year-old team, most of the boys he had coached in Little League. This decision paid off big for Garrison.  He also brought up his scorekeeper from the American League, Chuck Bowers. Bowers was crucial in keeping up with stats and the location of where the opposition hit the ball.

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The State Tournament was held in Johnson City and Garrison had selected Mike Shields and Roger Bailey as assistant coaches. Those coaches would be replaced after the state tournament by Glenn Bowers and Charles Peters. Shields accepted a new job and had to report to work and Bailey had already booked a vacation in Myrtle Beach.

The All-Stars would make it to the state tournament by defeating Washington County 11-0 and Avoca 14-0 in the finals. Randy Swearingen pitched and allowed only three hits.  Elizabethton’s Michael Shields and Ricky Garrison scored runs in the first inning to secure the lead throughout the game. In the championship game, Elizabethton put it away early; Travis Bowers hit a two-run homer and Zack Stipe would get the win allowing only two hits. Elizabethton played the state tournament in Johnson City and like the Districts, walked through the games beating Marshall County and Brentwood twice after beating Johnson City 8-2 to advance to the Southeast Regionals in Union City.

In Union City, Garrison’s all-stars faced Western North Carolina in the first game.  Now known as Tennessee All-Stars, they would score two runs in the third and hold on to win 2-1 over the Tar Heels.  Shannon Buchanan and Michael Shields both scored runs for Tennessee. Players that played in this game were Stipe, pitcher; Travis Bowers, third base; Shannon Buchanan, catcher;  Charles Peters, centerfielder; Randy Swearingen, right field; Nathaniel Treadway, left field; Michael Shields, shortstop; Ricky Garrison, second and Jordy Harrison at first.  Chad Lewis also played left field; Michael Mann, relief pitcher and Derek Slagle, right field. The all-stars lost the next two games but spent a wonderful week in Union City. Garrison’s All-Stars would re-peat this feat the following year, now as 14’s with Charles Peters and Ivan Sanders as assistant coaches. In the District, they beat Washington County 10-0. Up next was a tough Greenville team, but the hard-hitting Betsy all-stars harvested 20 runs on 19 hits to advance to the finals. Daniel McInturff teamed up with Stipe and Derek Slagle for the win.  Elizabethton went 4-0 in the tournament and scored 57 runs. Jefferson County would be one of those victims as the Betsy team won 18-3.  Elizabethton won 12-7 over Franklin, Charles Peters and Michael Shields went 3 for 5, Swearingen was 2 for 2, while Harrison and Bowers went 2 for 4.  Stipes led the way at the plate, going 4 for 4 and collecting the win.

In the championship game, Big Jordy Harrison would be the main man when he hammered a three-run homer that gave Elizabethton the lead until the top of the final inning.  Being the home team, the Betsy 14’s would get the last at-bats.  After getting the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, a  Morristown player hit a grand slam that would have put them up 4-3. As the players rounded the bases, the player at first never touched home plate. With two outs, this would end the inning with the score tied at three once Coach Garrison appealed the play.  Before the bottom of the inning started, and after much thinking, Garrison once again visited the umpires.  If the runner at first was the third out and his run didn’t count, then the batter that hit the home run could not have scored, therefore Morristown would only have two runs and the Betsy All Stars would win 3-2.  After the Umpires had about a 10-minute meeting, they agreed with Garrison so Elizabethton would win another state title and it was off to Marshall County for their second Southeast Regional appearance in two years.

Most of the boys from this team went on to play at three of the local high schools.  Those two years of Jr. Babe Ruth baseball and the next three years of high school baseball built some great memories for some good coaches and some great athletes.